In Depth

Is Guardiola undermining Man City with his team changes?

Constant changes leave the critics wondering after Chelsea destroy Citizens' defence

Sergio Aguero's horror-tackle on David Luiz in the final moments of Man City's defeat to Chelsea, together with Fernandinho's violent reaction and subsequent insubordination when shown a red card, stole the headlines on Saturday. 

But as the dust settles on the match, there are questions over whether Pep Guardiola is to blame for the loss.

The Citizens took the lead at the Etihad, but second-half goals from Diego Costa, Willian and Eden Hazard exposed the defence and sank them. 

The result leaves Chelsea three points clear of second-placed Arsenal at the top of the table and four ahead of former pace-setters City, who are now fourth.

It also means Antonio Conte's team have now won eight games in a row since switching to a 3-4-3 formation, although that tactical change may only be part of the story, says Matthew Smith of MailOnline.

"The enforced swap of Nemanja Matic for Cesc Fabregas against Manchester City due to injury was the first change to Chelsea's starting team in eight games," he writes. 

That is in stark contrast to Guardiola, who appears intent on casting himself as a latter-day "Tinkerman", the nickname once bestowed on Claudio Ranieri during his ineffectual reign at Chelsea. 

In 14 Premier League games, the Man City boss "has made a remarkable 46 changes to his starting line-up, 12 more than any other team", says Smith, who adds that only Fernandinho, Aleksandar Kolarov, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling have played more than 1,000 minutes out of a possible 1,260 this season.

"This shows how Guardiola, months into his tenure in Manchester, is perhaps still not sure of what his best team is," he adds.

Chelsea certainly exposed City defensively. "The common strand through all three goals conceded by Manchester City was how their centre halves, Aleksandar Kolarov and Nicolas Otamendi, were outrun so easily," says Tony Cascarino of The Times, who accuses the City coach of playing too high a line with defenders who lack the necessary pace.

Some of the defending was "profoundly unintelligent", says James Ducker of the Daily Telegraph, but "the manager is not exactly helping matters" with his tactics.

"Is it any surprise that City's defenders so often look like strangers, not entirely certain about what they or their team-mates should be doing, when Guardiola has changed things so relentlessly at the back, both in personnel and system terms?" he asks.

"He has yet to field the same back line in successive Premier League games this season, making 24 personnel changes, including to the goalkeeper, in that time. In three of the past eight league matches, he has switched between a three and four man defence."

Guardiola has rejected the idea that the Premier League is much different to the other European leagues, but on the continent there are games that the big clubs can win at a canter, allowing a manager to rotate players more freely. That is not true in England and Guardiola "is probably coming to discover that there are decisions he made at Barcelona and Bayern Munich that do not necessarily translate as well at a club in the Premier League", adds Ducker.

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